Information, Librarians and learning: The Challenge Ahead This presentation was given by Miriam A. Drake in 1996. It was a Follett Lecture given in London.
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The challenges in higher education are enormous and a bit frightening. My unscientific survey reveals a chaos on both sides of the Atlantic because no one knows how teaching and learning will change. There are many competing and conflicting forces at work. The situation is highly dynamic and likely to remain so for the immediate future. There is a high level of complexity and uncertainty. Our old and comfortable world is going away. Traditional structures and methods of teaching and learning are giving way to an new order, as yet undefined.
The elements in the new situation include more students, less money, assessment, quality, technology, productivity, student responsibility for learning, lifelong learning, distance learning and a generation that does not learn or gain understanding as we did. I call it the "point and click" generation. They have been nurtured on a diet of television and video games. In some ways, we have exposed our children to television in ways that stifle their imaginations, curiosity and fantasies. Neil Postman said, "our politics, religion, news, athletics, education and commerce have been transformed into congenial adjuncts of show business . . . the result is that we as a people are on the verge of amusing ourselves to death."1 The addition of computers in infant schools and above could exacerbate the problems.
If teachers are to be more productive, that is, teach more students in a given period of time and if students are to take more responsibility for their own learning there will have to be some big changes. For some people, technology is the magic answer. There are people who believe that technology will solve all the problems. Government officials and politicians look at private industry and see that we are producing more goods with fewer people . Processes of reengineering, using computers to control production work well for goods where uniformity is desired. They do not work well for people. The cookie cutter approach does not result in educated people.
Teachers will have to transform themselves into multimedia producers, team leaders, directors and coaches. Faculty accustomed to teaching with lectures, chalk and blackboard are likely to encounter difficulty in meeting new demands. In the process of restructuring, we may lose some excellent teachers whose experience and skills we need.
Research also is changing. It is becoming more interdisciplinary on the one hand and more specialized and fragmented on the other. There are researchers studying smaller and smaller areas while others are branching to other disciplines and combing those disciplines into new areas. These trends are apparent in all fields.